Thursday, August 28, 2008

Russia Vs. Georgia, Round 6: FIGHT!

I feel I must give an additional post to the staggeringly sophomoric insult-hurling debate in the Council today. Paraphrased, it goes like this:

1. Georgia calls the meeting to protest Russia's brazen recognition of Georgian breakaway provinces Abkhazia and S. Ossetia this week.
2. Diplomats from Western powers circle the press stakeout outside the Security Council chamber before the meeting, reminding us innocent scribes not to be disappointed that everyone knows that no outcome will happen from the meeting because Russia will veto any Western initiative and the West will veto any Russian intiative. Russian Ambassador Vitaly I. Churkin, on the way in, is observed to be giggling and slightly red-faced, leading to media speculation that he is intoxicated. More likely, he was just delighted upon getting orders from Moscow to unleash verbal hell in the ensuing Council session.
3. The meeting begins. Georgian Ambassador Irakli Alasania accuses Russia of dismembering his country and of conducting widescale ethnic cleansing in S. Ossetia and Abkhazia. The Russians, of course, have repeatedly claimed that the Georgians were ethnically cleansing during the August war. They bicker.
4. Ambassador Churkin retaliates with a 22 minute speech (that's 11 times longer than the Gettysburg Adress, for those keeping score at home), forcing journalists to hit the cafeteria's espresso bar en masse to stay conscious. In the speech, Churkin reads in their entirety both decrees of recognition by Russian President Medvedev, even though Medvedev himself had read them two days earlier. Churkin then continues Russia's tactic of speaking of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is a deranged mental patient who seized control of Georgia's government by force and, in his youthful lunacy decided to launch a Caucasus war for fun. Churkin calls Saakashvili's policies "aggressive an chauvinistic" (chauvinistic?) and using "crude blatant military force." (Remember, this is Russia accusing Georgia of crude blatant military force here.)
5. Churkin says that S. Ossetian and Abkhazian leaders should speak at the Council, and claims to have "broad support" for the idea. However, by "broad support" it turns out he means Russia and South Africa. All 13 other members, meanwhile, prove unreceptive. Even the Chinese — sovereignty buffs that they are — keep quiet. The Western powers naturally unite against Russia's position, while the developing bloc -- usually firm Russian allies -- all care too much about territorial integrity and sovereignty to support a Russian beatdown of a developing country. It turns out that sometimes the Non-Aligned Movement remembers its original guiding principles.
6. Now this is where it gets good. After the speeches are over, the right-of-replies begin. Or, more accurately, the right-to-issue-grade-school-insults-to-fellow-representatives-in-the-most-supreme-international-security-body-on-earths begin. Because that is what happens. Amb. Churkin mocks the hyprocrisy of the west as follows, and his comments must be typed in their entirety because they are hilarious:

Churkin: "If here in our chamber today for the first time we had had aliens from outer space [emphasis mine: ALIENS FROM OUTER SPACE?!], I'm sure that having listened to our discussion he would have been filled with pride for the member of the Security Council, how consistently they champion the principles of international law. I must say I in particular liked the statement of the permanent representative of the United States, reminding the members of the Security Council that states in their activity must refrain from the use or the threat of the use of force. And I would like to ask the distinguished rep of the United States, weapons of mass destruction, have you found them yet in Iraq? [emphasis mine: pause given so all the journalists in the house can yell "OOOH DAMN!" at the same time] I would like to ask the distinguished rep of the US as to whether there are threats coming out of Washington against another member of the UN to use force against that other member and even wipe it off the face of the earth. Now, several other members of the Council have referred to the importance of complying with resolutions of the Security Council, complying with the principle of territorial integrity. And where, dear colleagues, were you when we were discussing Kosovo?"

Responses to this devastating diatribe are rather pathetic. UK Ambassador John Sawers basically wrinkles his nose in disgust (rather understandably, I must say, although if it had been me, I wouldn't have been able to do even that without laughing). US Amb. Alejandro Wolff, after admitting that he's not a psychoanalyst, points out that a lot of countries recognized Kosovo (actually, only about 1/5 of the UN membership has so far), before dropping this head-in-the-clouds comment: "There were divisions on the Iraq war, those are well known. We thought we'd overcome them. Apparently there's still some lingering frustrations."

"Lingering frustrations," indeed.

China, meanwhile, very cleverly doesn't say a damn thing.

Georgia Amb. Alasania then attempts to psychoanalyze Churkin, saying that he's a good guy who isn't really comfortable saying all the rhetoric he's been instructed to say from Moscow. Churkin responds in kind, saying that it's a good thing that Amb. Wolff is not a psychoanalyst, and perhaps Amb. Alasania should admit as much about himself as well. "I am perfectly comfortable," Churkin assures the Council membership, before asking if Alasania is comfortable representing and evil and reckless genocidal regime!!! By this time, the poor Russian translator (Churkin speaks a mile a minute in either Russian or English) is missing whole sentences and is nearing a nervous breakdown.

Churkin, who is by this point chuckling aloud while the other members are reading their statements, then gets into a pissing contest with — quite improbably — the Ambassador of Costa Rica, after Costa Rica accuses Russia of aggression. Churkin ridicules Costa Rica's delegation and calls them hypocrites for recognizing Kosovo, leading the Ambassador of Costa Rica to righteously huff "Might does not make right!" (Note: Costa Rica is the only UN member state who actually thinks this.)

7. Wait, hang on, can you believe they're actually saying this stuff? These are preeminent diplomats to the most powerful and important countries in the world and they're just throwing spitballs at each other!!!! * head explodes *

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